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Clarissa

Samuel Richardson

Preface

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Letters 1–32

Summary

In the Preface, Richardson lays out the format of the novel: it will consist of letters, mostly between two virtuous young ladies and two rakish young men. The author assures the reader that the men’s letters, although wicked, are decent and not wholly immoral. He defends the length of the work on the ground that letters are written in the heat of the moment, before their content can be edited. The immediate reactions of the characters to events, as contained in their letters, are presumed to be instructive to young readers. Richardson claims to have asked friends to suggest cuts, but because they all disagreed with each other, he chose to keep the novel at its full length. Finally, he says that he hopes the book will act as a warning to both parents and children. Parents are advised not to try to force their children into marriage, while daughters are warned against preferring attractive libertines to honest, serious men, in spite of the popular idea “that a reformed rake makes the best husband.”

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